We did it! Piper took her first European trip (and just in time before Brexit!). The whole journey was unbelievably easy and ran so smoothly, that we just could not blog about it. If you’ve never taken your dog before & are a bit anxious at the thought, I’d recommend making the trip we did. As far as I’m aware, this DFDS ferry crossing is one of the very few ways (in fact maybe the only way) to leave the UK as a) foot passenger without a vehicle and b) without having to leave them in kennels.
We took the DFDS Ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam. To take a pet on board you either have to book them into the kennels, or telephone (0871 522 9955, calls cost 19p a minute) to book a special Pet Friendly Cabin. There are only a few pet friendly cabins on board, so they sell out quickly and advance booking is highly recommended. The cabins sleep 4 as standard (2 bunk beds), have an en-suite shower room & bedding and towels are provided. DFDS state that the cabins are suitable for up to 2 medium-sized dogs, but when we travelled there were 2 large labradors in the cabin down from us, so I’m not sure how strict this is. Dogs are charged at £25 per night, per dog. So for us it was a £50 additional cost. All in I think we paid about £350, which included 2 nights in the cabin, Piper’s fee, our breakfasts and the return transfer to & from Amsterdam. The crossing takes around 15 hours, setting sail at 5pm and arriving at 9.15/9.45am. You can board the ferry from as early as 3pm. When travelling with a pet they ask that you arrive within plenty of time.
Dogs have to stay in the cabin, but you can walk them to the designated dog deck whenever you want to. This was a short walk up down a corridor, past the kennels and up some stairs. The dog deck was small, but an adequate space for the dogs to go toilet. It consisted of some AstroTurf, gravel & a post for male dogs to cock their leg against. Poo bags & a bin were provided. I was impressed with the toilet facilities as I was expecting a hard metal floor & I could imagine Piper holding her wee for the whole journey, thankfully that wasn’t the case. One thing to bare in mind though, that the dog deck is located on the lowest outdoor deck, towards the rear of the ship near the engines. So it is quite loud and could make a noise sensitive dog anxious.
You are able to leave the dogs unattended in the cabin, should you wish. We left Piper on her own, but set up a dog monitoring app via our iPhones, so we could watch her when she was alone. Note, to do this we had to purchase two Wifi bundles as the WiFi can only be used on one device at a time. We bought two of the 44 hour mini-cruise packages, and we got a clear connection via FaceTime & Dog Monitor. The overall WiFi speed was good, slightly slow loading videos, but better than I was expecting.
I’d recommend either taking enough food with you for both dinner & breakfast, or pre-book your evening meal & breakfast when you book. It’s much cheaper to pre book your meals at the time of booking than it is to pay for them on the day. I made the mistake of assuming there would be a cafe that I could grab a sandwich from and take it back to the room to eat. There isn’t, so I had to pay the higher price for my evening meal. You can buy a slice of cake from the cafe, but any other food has to be purchased and eaten in one of the 2 restaurants. 1 restaurant is a buffet, the other is a much nicer, table serviced restaurant. Both are rather expensive if I’m being honest. The buffet restaurant, depending on when you book, costs around €24 per adult. The fancier restaurant was around the €35-€40 mark. However, you either pay it or starve as like I say there weren’t any other facilities providing and substantial food.
In terms of entertainment; the ship had two bars, nightclub, casino, 2 cinemas showing 6 films, arcade, a shop, coffee shop & kids play area. So overall plenty to keep you occupied and something to suit all the family. Prices were slightly inflated given the fact that you either paid them or missed out.
We travelled as foot passengers, so we parked and left the car in Newcastle. This cost £12 a day to park, £24 in total. Although, you can of course travel with a car and explore the Netherlands and the rest of Europe by car. We booked onto the coach transfer to and from the ferry terminal to Amsterdam. This takes around 30 minutes, you get around 5 hours to explore Amsterdam (personally I would have liked to of stayed a lot longer, but it’s great for those who only have a weekend free). Dogs are welcome on the coach transfers so long as they don’t sit on the seat. We found Amsterdam itself to be really dog friendly. The museums don’t allow dogs and the typically touristy places are really busy, but other than that it was a very dog welcoming place. A lot of the locals had their dogs with them, many of them not even on the lead. Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid that Piper was with me, we didn’t even have to ask before going into shops as the answer was always “yes” she’s allowed! We hired bikes for the day from Your City Bike. They provided a basket for Piper to ride in. Navigating Amsterdam by bike was a bit daunting at first, but once we got the hang of it, it was great fun. Everyone seems to bike everywhere in Amsterdam!
Passport/border control at both ends was really straightforward. Nobody even really battered an eyelid at the fact Piper was there. They looked at both my passport & Piper’s passport and we passed through without any issues at all (more info on the requirements for travelling with a dog here). It really was very easy and I’d recommend the trip to anyone who is nervous about travelling with a dog. The only regret I have is not staying for longer in Amsterdam. Because we took the mini cruise option, we only got 1 day in Amsterdam. I’d highly recommend staying for at least a couple of nights in the city and properly exploring it, to make the overnight ferry crossings worth it.
Short Vlog of our trip:
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading. Have you got any European trips planned? I’d love to hear about them!
E & P x